Considering the extremely high percentage of new users who abandon their sites within 7 days on WordPress.com (96%!)—as discussed in depth by Al Davis in The State of WordPress Education, I think it’s important for us to think about the beginner’s experience, and how it can be improved, from an education standpoint.
With this in mind, I decided to follow an all-beginner track for day 1 of WordCamp Phoenix yesterday. Out of the 5 tracks offered—Beginner User, Advanced User, Designer, Beginning Dev, and Advanced Dev—I split my time between Beginner User and Beginning Dev.
I started with An Introduction to WordPress by Sé Reed. The Beginner User room was full of people from all different industries with one thing in common: being brand new to WordPress.
With Sé in typical Sé form (fun and entertaining), many first time attendees got to start the day off with with some great energy…along with a ton of useful information. It was the perfect way to ease into WordCamp for anyone who’s never been before.
During the Q & A, I had the chance to talk about our reader Meg’s frustrations from last week: how overwhelming it is to choose a theme as a beginner. Turns out that this is a very common roadblock, and the people in the room could completely relate.
So Sé offered some good advice; she recommends that new users start simple and use Twenty Twelve. And once they get the hang of it, only then should they venture into the land of premium themes. At that point, they should consult a WordPress resource (like Carrie Dill‘s Torque article on how to choose a premium theme, for example) rather conducting a Google search.
For more helpful tips, you can see the slides from Sé’s talk here.
After lunch I went into the Beginning Dev room for Zac Gordon‘s session, Learning Web Design Via WordPress. Zac, of Treehouse fame, is known for his accessible teaching style. His presentation was great for any WordPress user who is interested in becoming a WordPress developer.
The last session I attended was Setting Up and Maintaining Your WordPress Site, by Suzette Franck, back in the Beginner User room. This talk was the perfect next step for anyone who attended Sé’s talk that morning.
With my WordPress-education-for-beginners angle in mind, I was interested in seeing what kinds of questions people asked at the end of their first day—which would be after this session.
But there actually weren’t many questions. Suzette’s talk was very thorough, and everyone was learning a lot of new things. So it’s possible everyone was still soaking things up. However, there did seem to be a lot of confusion about managed WordPress hosting: What is it? Why should I want it? Who do I get it from? There were also questions about Jetpack: What is it? What does it do? Does it include VaultPress?
After the session was over, there were a few people at my table talking nervously about how there are just so many new (to them) terms being thrown around—so I pointed them over to WPBeginner’s handy glossary.
Suzette also made her slides available, so new users could use it as a resource.
Any beginners out there have thoughts on attending WordCamps? Any educators have thoughts on catering to beginners at WordCamps? Please share your ideas in the comments below!
Michelle Oznowicz is the Managing Editor of Torque. Whether it be directing a short film, planning a unique travel adventure, or pulling together and organizing a community-powered publication, she enjoys rallying a group of people around a common goal.